All national papers reported extensively on North Korea’s test-firing of a new type of long-range cruise missile over the weekend, speculating that the DPRK may have been trying to up the ante ahead of a trilateral meeting to be held in Tokyo today between the U.S., Japan, and South Korea as well as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang’s trip to Seoul. The latest launches did not constitute a violation of UN sanctions resolutions since they did not involve a ballistic missile. Pointing out that the projectiles allegedly flew for more than two hours and hit a target about 1,500 km away from the launch site, the papers projected that North Korea’s new weapons system may pose a considerable security challenge to its neighbors, including U.S. bases in Japan, since detecting cruise missiles flying at low altitudes is very difficult. Neither the United States, Japan, nor South Korea was allegedly able to detect the tests since the projectiles flew exclusively within North Korea. In a statement released on Monday, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said: “This activity highlights the DPRK’s continuing focus on developing its military program and the threats that poses to its neighbors and the international community.”
The dailies speculated that the Kim regime may have been trying to ascertain where the Biden administration draws a “red line” by using a cruise missile that would not constitute a violation of UN resolutions. While asserting that the latest DPRK provocation was relatively “muted,” Sankei projected that if the U.S. administration chooses to downplay the significance of the missile launches, the Kim regime may be tempted to escalate the tension by testing a ballistic missile next. The conservative paper also conjectured that Washington’s policy of pursuing dialogue with Pyongyang will be tested, especially in the face of growing criticism that the Biden administration’s precipitous military withdrawal from Afghanistan has raised doubts about the U.S. security commitment to its allies and friends.
According to the papers, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Kim will hold talks with MOFA Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Director General Funakoshi and ROK Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Noh on the latest development and North Korea’s denuclearization at MOFA today.